Sunday Feb 2nd
'The science of malaria eradication' Keystone Symposia celebrated its first day of activities in Merida, Yucatan, with a workshop devoted to students and researchers from endemic countries that received a travel award to attend the meeting. This workshop offered the opportunity to interact with a group of international experts that discussed the role of a dynamic biomedical research agenda, including aspects relating to therapeutics, vector biology and vaccines to interrupt transmission.
During the workshop, Lee Hall (National Institutes of Health, NIAID, USA), introduced the particularities of the eradication approach and the role of R&D in achieving the goal. Marcelo Jacobs-Lorena (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA) went deep into novel vector control techniques, including genetic modification both at the mosquito and the symbiont level. Finally, Chetan Chitnis (International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, India) presented different vaccines that could have an effect in interrupting transmission, as well as current candidates and lessons from the past.
One of the main take home messages from this workshop is that research has to be an integral part of the malaria eradication effort and both basic research and applied research are required. Moreover, malaria eradication requires a number of steps such as the improved use and adaptation of the tools that are currently available, the development and evaluation of innovative tools and the integration of multiple interventions. In fact, according to Jacobs-Lorena words, 'unless we integrate the different tools we will never eradicate malaria'.
A number of challenges were discussed, and the point was emphasised that as we progress towards malaria eradication, the changes in the epidemiology of malaria will have implications for the R&D agenda. Therefore, there is a need to encourage a bidirectional dialog between the R&D community and the public health programme.
The Keystone Symposia on the science of malaria eradication is organized in collaboration with the Malaria Eradication Scientific Alliance (MESA). During 5 days, it will gather more than 150 scientists that will share and discuss the most up to date research results. In total, 32 people from 13 different countries benefited from the travel award programme in this Keystone Symposia, which was made possible by a grant from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.